There’s a lot that people worry about as they approach parenthood for the first time: the sleep deprivation, the depleted bank account, the change in physical appearance just to name a few. They’re all things that I’ve accepted will be a challenge, but one I’m willing to take on as I fulfil my almost-lifelong dream of becoming a mum. The thing that’s gradually creeping up on me is, will I ever eat a decent meal again?!
My spare time is dedicated to food. I read recipe books in bed, I love a lazy Sunday making our weekly meal plan, and I’ve made it so my Instagram feed is pretty much just a catalogue of places to add to my To-Eat list. Thinking ahead to my next meal is only broken up by considering what snacks I might have to fill the gaps, but for the first time in my adult life, I don’t know what my food future looks like.
I’m sure there’s a healthy split of parents who are reading this and chuckling because they’re thinking ‘Yep, that’s it for you. Happy Meals only from now on’ versus those who think I’m completely over-reacting. But stepping into this huge, exciting but also terrifying unknown means it’s exactly that: unknown. So I’ve taken things somewhat into my own hands for now, and embraced the batch cook. Maternity leave so far has seen me pack my freezer with meals that are regular favourites on our meal plan circuit: beef rendang, turkey chilli, fish pie, red lentil dal – the sorts of things that can be microwaved, thrown on top of rice or have vegetables added on the side, and ideally eaten with one hand. Of course, the odd takeaway will creep in, and we have a local Cook shop for over-priced oven meals if push comes to shove, but good, familiar home cooking is something I’ve had my whole life, and it’s something I don’t take for granted. A bit of preparation is going to help me feel satisfied and comfortable at a time when I’m figuring out literally everything else.
And then there’s restaurants. I’ve been told they’re much easier with a small baby than a toddler, but there’s logistics to consider. How do I get there? Is there somewhere to change nappies? Will I feel comfortable feeding there? I know I’ll figure it out once the baby is actually here and we learn how to navigate this world together, but I usually have something booked, or at least somewhere I plan to book. Restaurant reservations will now have to take into consideration either child-friendly locations or having help with childcare – it’s certainly not going to be an ad-hoc, fuss-free way of eating anymore. Exploring locally seems like the best option for now, and daytime bookings will hopefully make for a less cranky mum and baby. Finding bakeries, cafes and takeaways will be much more realistic for a grab-and-go sort of situation, at least until I know what the hell I’m doing.
More than ever I’ll be viewing food as a source of energy, but I don’t want it to just become a necessity. Food for me is entertainment, but also comfort. A good meal can improve my mood more than almost anything else, a few hours baking can reset my brain in the way video games and Netflix binging works for others. It’s an integral part of my wellbeing, and I’ll be trying my best to keep it a priority even as my world is turned upside down with our exciting new arrival.